Barry Seeks Audit After Payroll Glitch

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

D.C. Council member Marion Barry is calling for an audit of the District government's payroll foul-up that left hundreds of students unpaid last week in the summer youth job program.

In letters to council colleague Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) and D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, Barry (D-Ward 8) cited a newly installed information-technology system at the Department of Employment Services as contributing to the glitch. About 13,000 young people were paid last week, compared with 19,000 in the first week of the program. Hundreds have complained to the agency, and Barry's office said that the workers were underpaid or not paid at all.

Barry also raised questions about the first week's payroll, saying Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration paid every youth who signed up for the summer program, including those who did not participate.

"What message is this sending to young people working for the first time? It is that they can get money even if they don't work?" wrote Barry, who plans to hold a news conference today detailing his concerns. "Isn't this fraud?"

The council member asked Willoughby to audit the program and called on Schwartz, chairman of the Committee on Workforce Development and Government Operations, to hold a special hearing during the council's summer recess. A phone call to Schwartz's office was not returned yesterday.

Schwartz said last week that she also was frustrated by the payment problems.

City Administrator Dan Tangherlini said the administration expects by today to have issued back pay to all workers who were underpaid by adding money to the debit cards that were given to each youth.

Tangherlini called Barry's criticism "not entirely fair" and blamed the problems on new computer software, employee errors and reporting mistakes from job sites.

"There were a bunch of bureaucratic issues," Tangherlini said. "We're working towards making sure every kid gets paid. We feel terrible that kids might have picked up the wrong lesson, that you work and do not get paid. I personally met with some kids, and they had a right to be unhappy."

Asked whether the city paid anyone who did not participate, Tangherlini said he had heard of "a few cases." But he emphasized that the city this year nearly doubled the number of participants in the summer jobs program, which further complicated a payroll system that has long had glitches.

Tangherlini said he did not know how many young people had not been fully paid, but he predicted that the third pay period on Aug. 1 will be much smoother.

Barry said he attended a gathering of about 350 young people in Ward 8 yesterday morning before they reported to their worksites. Many of the workers were yelling and complaining that they still had not been paid, he said.

"They did not know who was supposed to pay them," Barry said. "They just wanted to get paid."

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